Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years ago today, a phone call changed my life.

Often, when someone says that a phone call changed their life, it's bad news. The death of a loved one, a job loss, a frightening diagnosis. However, in my case, the woman on the other end of the line was Gail Chasan, a senior editor at Silhouette Books. She offered to buy my first romance novel.

It was 12:01 PM on December 1, 2000.

Going to the Castle When I hung up the phone, I called my husband, got his voice mail, and left a message asking him to call me immediately. Then I told myself I'd make the most of the opportunity to write for a living.

Going to the Castle hit store shelves in December 2001, and I've been a full-time writer ever since. I wouldn't change it for the world.

There's been a lot to celebrate in the last fifteen years. I've had letters and emails from readers that have made me smile and—on several occasions—laugh loud enough to scare my dog. I've made lifelong friends I never would've met otherwise. Three of my books have been RITA finalists and one even won. Best of all, I spend my days writing stories about compelling people and the challenges they must face.

That's not to say there haven't been bumps on the road. When I made the decision to become a full time writer, I quit practicing law, a career for which I'd studied long and hard (and let's not talk about law school tuition.) It was a big risk, knowing it'd be difficult to go back if I couldn't make it as a writer. During my first years as a published author, I also wrote for a number of magazines as a freelancer, which meant crazy hours but more income.

Eventually, I sold a young adult novel and dropped most of the magazine work in order to maintain both a romance writing career (as Nicole Burnham) and the young adult career (as Niki Burnham.) Still crazy hours, but they were more predictable. Eventually, due to contract changes and editorial shuffling, I found myself down to one publisher and a less-than-ideal contract. I made a difficult choice—but the right one—and, once again, took a risk and walked away.

Offers came from other publishers, but nice as they were, the stories they wanted me to write didn't tap into my strengths as an author, nor were they what my readers wanted to read. By this time, I'd built a small but solid following, so I decided to write what I knew would work both for me and for those readers: a series of romances centered around a sprawling, messy royal family from southern Europe. I wanted to make each story different, yet give readers the uplifting tone they desired and a spectacular setting they would relish revisiting.

I took the leap and self-published a novella and the first two books in the Royal Scandals series simultaneously. Two more full-length books and two novellas have joined those first books.

Many of you who read my books from the very start with Silhouette picked up the Royal Scandals series. Others who found me via my Niki Burnham books for teens (and who are now adults!) have done the same. Better still, you've shared your love of the series with your friends, and the series has grown steadily in popularity.

Thanks to you, I've been able to keep the promise I made to myself when I received that life-changing phone call fifteen years ago.

Needless to say, there are more Royal Scandals books on the way. I'm also planning a new series, one I think you'll enjoy.

In this season of gratitude, I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to Gail Chasan for making that phone call and believing in my talent. Most of all, I want to thank you, my readers, for fifteen wonderful years.

I look forward to the next fifteen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Now in Audio - Honeymoon With a Prince

If you're in the United States, odds are good you'll be in the car this weekend (or enduring a longer-than-usual commute over the next few days) due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm happy to share that, if you choose, you can have a sexy Barrali prince for companionship.

The wonderful Hollis McCarthy has recorded the audiobook of Honeymoon With a Prince, and it's now available from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible.com, where it already has a 4.9/5 rating. Hollis does a spectacular job capturing the rich feel of Sarcaccia and the excitement that surrounds the Barrali family, particularly battle-scarred Prince Massimo.

If you haven't enjoyed this story yet, be sure to check it out in audio. It's easy listening while you walk or commute. For more on Hollis, her background, and the prep work that goes into audiobooks, be sure to read my recent interview with her.

I look forward to hearing what you think of Honeymoon With a Prince! And stay tuned...Hollis is in the midst of recording my RITA finalist novel Slow Tango With a Prince, so look for it soon.

PS: If you've wanted to try audiobooks and aren't sure where to start, check out the deal now running on Audible. You can try their monthly audiobook subscription program for 30 days for FREE. It's a great way to grab Honeymoon With a Prince and see if audiobooks are for you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Christmas With a Palace Thief

Happy to announce that an all new Royal Scandals novella is now available! Security chief Umberto Niro, the powerful, courageous man in charge of protecting the Barrali royal family, finally meets his match in--of all people--a quiet gelateria owner.

Umberto has dedicated his life to a single mission: defending the royal family from all threats, both internal and external. When he detects an intruder deep inside the palace, capture is swift and certain. Then he discovers the thief is his ex-girlfriend—and former co-worker—Sara Angeletti, and he suspects there's more to the Christmas break-in than meets the eye.

Umberto turned his back on Sara years ago, but she hasn't forgotten the depth of passion they once shared. When he hauls her into his office in handcuffs, she uses that attraction to her advantage. She's playing with fire, but Sara's on a mission of her own....

Can they survive the holiday...and each other?

Christmas With a Palace Thief is now available for Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, and Nook.  

If you'd prefer to read in paperback, stay tuned. A paperback edition will be available shortly. For the earliest notice, be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter. The list is private, and will never be shared with anyone outside nicoleburnham.com.

I can't wait to hear what you think of Umberto and Sara's story. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Eight Questions for Audiobook Narrator Hollis McCarthy

Hollis McCarthy has received rave reviews for her acting performances in many theatrical, television, and film productions. I feel incredibly fortunate to have her as the narrator of the Royal Scandals audiobooks. The first book in the series, Scandal With a Prince, is now available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. As I post this, Hollis has finished principal recording on Honeymoon With a Prince.

I found Hollis after hearing the audiobook of Anthea Lawson’s Sonata for a Scoundrel. I was amazed by the way Hollis brought the characters to life. Because I know you’ll love her work on Scandal With a Prince as much as I do and will want to know more about her, I asked Hollis if she’d agree to be interviewed. 
Hollis McCarthy, photo by Yvonne Marchese

Q: Hi Hollis!  I’m thrilled to have you here. What can you tell my readers about your background?

I grew up in rural Northwest Ohio, and literally went to school surrounded by cornfields.  I got my BFA and MFA degrees in acting and have been acting professionally around the country in stage, film, tv and voice-over for twenty some years.  I specialize in plays of complex language – Shakespeare, Pinter, Friel, and so on – and have worked off-Broadway and in regional theatres like The Old Globe, Alabama Shakespeare, Chicago Shakespeare, Portland CenterStage, and so on. 

Q:  When you aren’t in the studio recording audiobooks, what do you do?

I live in NJ, just across the river from NYC now, so I spend a lot of time auditioning for plays, TV shows, commercials and so on.  I did an episode of The Good Wife, and one of House of Cards recently.  I love to ride my bike and run with my husband, Mark, an actor/playwright, along the Hudson River with a view of the city.  We also do stage combat, so we get our swords out in the park sometimes and practice our broadsword and rapier/dagger fights.  We’re about to be in a play together, playing husband and wife, at a small local professional theatre right in our neighborhood.

Q:  How did you get started as an audiobook narrator? What is it about audiobooks that you find appealing?

My husband, Mark McCarthy, who is a terrific narrator, took an audiobook workshop a few years ago from Paul Ruben, a wonderful producer and coach, and shared all the great stuff he learned from Paul with me.  So we cut our first audiobook demos and started sending links to producers, I did some books for Audible, hooked up with an engineer friend who has a studio near me, and it built slowly from there.

Mom taught us all to read before we started school, and used to read Tolkien aloud to us when we were cleaning up from dinner, to keep the five of us kids from arguing.  I’m a voracious reader, and have loved reading out loud since I would read to my little brother, and do the voices of the Sesame Street characters for him.  I do a killer Grover.  Getting to play ALL the characters in books is great fun.  I’ve played a lot of ingenues and leading ladies, and it’s so fun not to be constricted by physical type in audiobook work – to play old, young, English, Egyptian, and everything in between!   Telling stories is a wonderful way to make a living, and I feel lucky every time I go into the recording booth to bring an author’s words to audio life.

Q:  What kind of preparation do you do? What challenges have you faced narrating the Royal Scandals series?

I spend a lot of time on prep.  I always start reading the book through just for fun, like a regular reader, because you get a real feel for the book that way.  Then I go back and work through slowly, using my IAnnotate app on my tablet, assigning different vocal qualities to each character, marking “beats” into the text, looking up words/names that I don’t know how to pronounce, and so on.  I also sketch in a few acting cues for myself, here and there. 

One of the big challenges of the RS series is the dialects!  I’m very English/Scottish/Irish looking, and am great with all those dialects and pretty much any American dialects you can imagine, because I’ve played them on stage.  But I’ve never played Italian or Spanish, for obvious reasons, so I had to learn those.  I use my husband, who is a great dialect coach, a lot, and also listen to online coaching and the cds of David Allan Stern.  Of course, once you learn the dialect, you have to reduce how much of it you use, because less is truly more with dialects in this genre. 

Q:  Which Royal Scandals character has been the most fun to narrate?

I’d pick TWO so far:  Anna, the young daughter in Scandal With a Prince, and Fabrizia, the Queen of Sarcaccia, who is in both of the books I’ve done so far.  I love voicing kids, and Anna was a treat.  Her Majesty is so well written – a lot of emotional depth hidden beneath her regal, formal exterior. 

Q:  What are your current projects?

In addition to the play I start rehearsing with Mark on Monday at Hudson Theatre Works, I have a bunch of audiobooks done and in post-production, including your lovely Honeymoon With a Prince, a great non-fiction book by Lauren Kessler called Raising the Barre, another fun cozy mystery in the series I’m narrating for Leighann Dobbs, and a psychological thriller called Lucidity by C.J. Lyons.  I have four more lined up to record between now and year’s end, including two more Royal Scandals books I can’t wait to read!

Thanks so much for joining me, Hollis!  I've posted an audio sample of your work on Scandal With a Prince on my website, and look forward to the release of Honeymoon With a Prince in audio in the coming weeks.

For more about Hollis McCarthy, visit her website at www.mccactors.com.  You can also search for Hollis by name on your favorite audiobook platform to hear her other great performances.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Now in Audio - Scandal With a Prince

My good friend Emily March - a voracious reader -often listens to audiobooks. She can listen while doing housecleaning, gardening, or while out for a walk or a drive. If you're a fan of audiobooks, I'm happy to announce that the first Royal Scandals book, Scandal With a Prince, is now available in audio from Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Other Royal Scandals books will be available in audio in the coming months

If you've never listened to an audiobook, this is a great opportunity to give it a try.  Audible is running a promotion that allows you to Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. Amazon and iTunes also run frequent deals for site users to try audiobooks.

Most of all, I'm thrilled to say that the Royal Scandals books are narrated by the fabulous Hollis McCarthy, who is a both a talented stage performer and voice actor.  I'll interview Hollis for an upcoming blog, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I can't wait to hear what you think of Scandal With a Prince.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Seattle Bound

Every year, authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, Susan Sizemore and I get together to talk books, plotting, and food. (We're quite focused on the food.) This year, our annual shindig happens to occur on the same day Christina has a brand-new book on sale. To celebrate, all four of us will be appearing at Page 2 Books of Burien from 5 - 7PM this Tuesday, September 8.

If you're in the Seattle area, this is your chance to ask us anything and to get an autographed copy of Obsession Falls straight off the presses. (Tip: an autographed book makes a fantastic birthday or Christmas gift!) We'll tell you what we're reading now, how we write our stories, and what's coming soon from each of us. Come one, come all for what promises to be an entertaining evening.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ten to Try: Sports Romances

I make no secret of my love of baseball. I wouldn't object to being locked in Fenway Park or Coors Field for a week during the season. (I imagine my letter: Dear Family, I am afraid I can't make it home for several more days, as an emergency situation has cropped up....) There's something about the energy of the crowd, the scent of freshly-cut grass and red dirt, and the sight of wide-eyed kids at their first MLB game that gets me every time.

Of course, my other love is a great story. I write romance because it allows me to delve into the human condition in a way other genres don't always permit. Given those two loves, sports romances are a natural go-to read for me. If you've never tried one, here are ten to consider. And if you're already a fan of these stories, please post your own suggestions in the comments!

1) It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. You wouldn't know it from the poodle on the cover, but this romance is about a fiesty, ultra-feminine woman who inherits a professional football team. The first in Phillips' popular Chicago Stars series, it's a classic...and one of my favorite romances of all time. 

2)  Double Play by Jill Shalvis. Pitcher meets reporter in this endearing baseball romance. Jill's books are compulsively readable; if you haven't read the two books in her Pacific Heat series (Double Play is the first, Slow Heat is the second) you're missing out.

3) Against the Ropes by Sarah Castile. Fascinated by mixed martial arts competition? This MMA romance features a steely, focused hero and a woman who takes a job as a medic in an elite MMA club. This was a Publisher's Weekly Top Ten Pick for Romance & Erotica, so expect a steamy, blazing hot read along with a great storyline.

4)  Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson. Gibson is a master at gut-splitting humor. Mix in a runaway bride and a sexy hockey star, and you have a surefire winner. This classic is on sale for $1.99 on Kindle as I post this, which is a total steal. I've read and reread this story. It's that much fun.

5)  Miracle Road by Emily March. If you've visited my Facebook page, you know that I consider author Emily March one of my dearest friends. Even if we'd never met, she'd still be one of my favorite authors. Her stories are optimistic, humorous, sexy, and offer readers a rich sense of community. Every. Single. Time. That being said, Miracle Road is probably my favorite Emily March book. It features Lucca Romano, a college basketball coach engulfed by guilt after two of his players are killed when the team bus goes off the road, and the schoolteacher who shows him that his life has meaning. This is a can't-miss read from a New York Times and USA Today besteselling author.

6)  Game for Love by Bella Andre. Bella is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller with good reason: she creates characters readers love. This book, with a linebacker hero, is no exception. If you haven't read Bella's books, this is a great place to start.

7) Dare to Love by Carly Phillips. Like alpha heroes? Strong women? Billionaire romances? If so, give Carly Phillips Dare to Love series a try. Dare to Love is currently free on Kindle.  It tells the story of wealthy football team owner Ian Dare and the woman sure to bring him to his knees. And what better way to see if you like a new series than by reading the first book free?

8) Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy. NASCAR fans, Erin McCarthy's steamy Fast Track series is for you! Two years after Tamara Briggs lost her husband in an wreck at Talladega, she crosses paths with a rookie driver who's sexy, fun, and great with her kids. But Tamara knows all too well what can happen during a race, and how devastating it can be. This eight-book series has rave reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

9)  Changing the Game by Jaci Burton. A sports agent and her top client, a professional pitcher, rely on each other for career success. But when personal feelings and business mix, complications arise. Jaci's Play by Play series features athletes from a variety of sports (there are baseball, football, auto racing, and hockey books in the series) who know each other via family and hometown connections. This is a seductive, emotional read.

10) Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Jordan Woods has been surrounded by great-looking, athletic guys her whole life...mostly because, as quarterback of her high school's football team, they consider her one of the guys. She's devoted her entire existence to being the best athlete she can be. But when a new, talented quarterback moves to her high school, he threatens everything she's worked to achieve. This young adult romance has received raves from the moment it was published in 2011, and it's destined to be a classic. If you enjoy YA romance, grab this one!